A new and forward-looking index of the U.S. housing market published by financial services and insurance firm Nationwide says that according to its survey of 373 metro area housing markets, the housing market is “at its healthiest” since 2001.

The new, quarterly “Health of Housing Markets Report” offers regional and local breakdowns, and Nationwide’s economists offer contextual analysis and commentary.

“Unlike most other housing indices or surveys, the HoHM Report provides a look into the future instead of the rearview mirror,” said David Berson, Nationwide’s chief economist and senior vice president. “The quarterly report should serve as a resource to gauge how healthy housing markets are today but, perhaps more important, what to expect in the future and why.” 

The inaugural HoHM Report finds that the current leading indicator score is 109.8, a modest increase from the 108.7 score for the fourth quarter of 2014 and the highest level since 2001, which is the earliest date for which data is available.

According to the measure, the index value over 100 suggests the national housing market is healthy, with lower chances of a housing downturn over the next year as the index moves increasingly above the 100 breakeven value.

Among the findings:

  • The housing markets in the vast majority of MSAs are healthy, signaling that few regional housing markets are vulnerable to a housing downturn in the next year.
  • The healthiest housing markets in the nation are Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Philadelphia, with none of the largest 40 MSAs in negative territory and only six of them are at neutral.
  • The least healthy markets are Bismarck, N.D., and Atlantic City, N.J., and even these markets received just slightly negative performance rankings.
  • While almost all local housing markets are healthy, about 25 percent worsened over the past year. Still, slightly more improved than worsened.
  • Fourth quarter 2014 data was used to determine the index level, capturing statistics for employment, the mortgage market and house price growth components. In the latest period, household formations rose at a faster pace, but a continued tight mortgage-lending environment persists as an impediment to even stronger national housing activity.
  • The Top 10 MSAs in the initial index are, in order: Pittsburgh; Cleveland-Elyria; Philadelphia; Rockford, IL; Burlington, N.C.; Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, PA; Fayetteville-Springdale, AK-MO; Idaho Falls, ID, Tulsa and Kennewick-Richland, WA.
  • The Bottom 10 MSAs, in order, are: Bismarck, N.D., Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J.; New Orleans-Metairie; Lafayette, LA; Casper, WY; Ocean City, N.J.; Austin-Round Rock; Monroe, LA; Dallas-Plano-Irving; and Houston.
  • Showing the most improvement in the past year were, in order: Elmira, N.Y.; Ithaca, N.Y., Erie, PA; Decatur, IL; Johnstown, PA; Danville, IL; Bowling Green, KY; Flint, Mich.; Clarkston, TN; and Anniston-Oxford, AL.
  • Weakening the most in the past year, in order, were: Bismarck, N.D.; Bellingham, WA; Roanoke, VA; Bloomington, IN; Atlantic City-Hammonton, N.J.; Rapid City, S.D.; Wheeling, W.V.; Gainesville, FL; Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA; and Ocean City, N.J.